Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gifts


I love giving gifts. My favorite thing is being able to think of a gift that I know someone will love but not be expecting.

How about you? Have you ever given such a gift? Or received one?

I'm talking about one such gift that I was given in my post at Four Perspectives today.

Practical Gifts

photo from uprightpiano.com


Back when we were dating and having those get-to-know you conversations Allen asked me if there was anything I wished I could have done in my life, but hadn't. My answer came easily: I never learned to play the piano. It was a dream I had since given up on and I was okay with that now, but I was still fascinated by those who could flawlessly tickle the ivories and produce beautiful music.

A few Christmases after we were married Allen suggested that we be a bit frivolous and buy each other something more pricey and unpractical than we normally would. This came as a surprise because our gifts to this point were always something practical. Things like car parts and needed clothing. I immediately knew what I wanted to buy him but could not keep it a secret because he would have to be sized - a pair of skis and ski boots. I personally held NO love for attempting to balance myself upon two narrow sticks while barreling down a snow-packed mountain but I knew that it was something he would enjoy owning and something we would likely never purchase otherwise.

As Christmas approached he would drop hints about my gift, but nothing which gave it away. In fact, I was thoroughly convinced that I was getting a deep-freezer and tried to be excited about it.

Christmas morning came and we went to his sister's house to celebrate with his family. There my gift sat in the front room, larger than life among the smaller gifts scattered around the tree. My guesses were confirmed - something that large could only be what I had imagined. I kept telling myself that it would be great to have a place to store lots of ice cream despite my slight disappointment that my gift was once again something practical.

When I opened the box, I was shocked to see it - a piano! He reminded me of our conversation a few years back and told me that we would both be taking lessons and learning to play. I was in shock... it was the most thoughtful, beautiful gift I had ever received. And completely unpractical! I loved it.

We did attempt lessons for a while, but with small children underfoot and Allen in school we eventually had to change our plans. I resigned myself to the idea that I could look forward to the day when my own kids could help the piano to sing.

Fast forward a few years, when my oldest turned 8. He started lessons and seemed to pick things up fairly quickly but he refused to practice. We were up in arms with each other for almost a full year but eventually I could no longer justify the cost of the lessons if he would not do his part. I wondered if my piano would ever produce the music that I dreamed of hearing in my home.

This brings me to today. As I write this post, my 5 oldest kids (even my oldest boy who eventually learned the benefit of having a musical talent) are taking their turns practicing on my piano. The oldest 3 can play some of my favorite songs, and they often do. It is such a thrill to hear how they have progressed over the years, from Pop Goes The Weasel to Fur Elise to some of my favorite songs from the radio, musicals and our church hymnal.

It turns out that my most favorite gift, one that I saw at the time as magnificently unpractical, has turned out to be the most practical gift of all - and it is a gift which keeps on giving. It has given my children the gift of learning the benefits of practicing and sticking to something. It has given them the ability to gain a talent which can benefit our home as well as others. The best gift of all, however, is the gift I have been given - my home is filled with the music that I could never produce myself. Instead I produced children who, in time, have shared their gifts with me.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Yeah.


I almost want to apologize in advance... but my speech teacher taught me to never do that. So I'm not going to. Even though this is not a speech.

It's my turn to write at Four Perspectives.

I know, it's a day overdue.

Just come visit and I'll explain the whole thing.

Starting Over

I forgot that yesterday was Wednesday.

I realized that today was Thursday at around 3:00 this morning as my husband and I spent some time with our feverish, but very happy (delirious, maybe?) 2-year-old. Just before my sickie son woke up he had finished a long string of talking in his sleep by singing a condensed version of the Veggie Tales theme song.

Maybe this is what happens when you combine Otter Pops with children's Tylenol before bedtime? Who knows. But either way, it was soothingly humorous to lay in bed and listen to my little man chatter to the unknown in his dreams.

Earlier that day we had sent our 9-year-old daughter to the rodeo with some friends, after which Allen and I took our 14-year-old out to dinner and an amazing show for her birthday. When we got home from our excursion we discovered that not only was our 2-year-old burning up with fever, but the 9-year-old had thrown up all over the stands at the rodeo and her friend's mom had cleaned up the resulting aftermath. Did I mention that half of my family had been pukey-sick the day before that with a 24-hour flu sort of thing? I swear they all seemed fine when we left. So, yeah. I'm Mother of the Year.

Before that I was attempting to buy some clothes for the birthday girl who is at the in-between stage where she is too big for Little Girl clothes and too small for the Junior section. We were gone for somewhere near six hours and finally found her an undershirt that fit. Happy birthday, sweetheart! I hope you love that undershirt. (That's about as awesome as getting underwear for Christmas, I'm pretty sure.)

I'll tell you what.

Let's all just pretend that yesterday didn't even happen.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Yesterday

Yesterday was busy. There was a beautiful funeral for my dear Aunt Sandra who passed away last week and then the impromptu family reunion that always takes place after such events. All in all, it was a wonderful day and I was once again reminded of how amazingly blessed I am to have married into such an awesome family.

I also posted at 4P yesterday, but I was too busy to remind you to click over there to read it. But I'm reminding you now, and you know how the saying goes: better late than never! It's definitely not my usual blog fodder, but I just couldn't resist...

If you know who this is (I didn't until a few days ago), I hope you think I'm kidding. But I'm not.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Leave It To Bieber

Today's post surprises me more than any of you. I never, ever in my lifetime thought I would be writing about Justin Bieber, but here we are. Life is sort of funny that way, isn't it?

I first heard about this kid in snippets of conversation among my teenagers. "I don't get the whole hype. He sounds like a 5-year-old girl!" "Forget what he sounds like, he looks like a 5-year-old girl."

I asked who they were talking about and they imparted their limited knowledge of this YouTube discovered singing sensation who was melting the hearts of 10-year-old girls everywhere. "I think you're just jealous," I told them. "He probably already has more money than you'll ever see in your lifetime."

They got me curious. I looked him up on YouTube and read about him in Wikipedia and I came to this conclusion: Justin Bieber is the New Kids On The Block of my day. Everyone either loved them or hated them, there was no in-between. The group of friends I was with every spare moment were of the haters-club and so I became one as well. Until I heard one of their songs on the radio. I didn't know who the singers were (had actually never heard their music before my friends started bashing them) and really liked the song. So I became a closet semi-fan. At one point I even purchased some 'I heart NKOTB' stickers and plastered them on my friend Terry's locker at school, thinking it would be funny. He was furious. That secret has remained with me... until today. But I'm pretty sure he doesn't follow either of my blogs, so it's all good.

Anyhow - my point is this. Justin Bieber seems like a decent kid who lucked out in the music industry. I could never follow him on Twitter because his grammar is atrocious; but hey, the kid can sing. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that he's got some talent - at least until he hits puberty.

Oh, wait - I guess he's already 16.

I have to concede one thing to my kids, though - I'm not sure about a 5-year-old, but he does look a lot like my 3-year-old girl...
Or maybe it's just that they both need haircuts.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Quick Quips

From the mouths (and pens) of my kids...


"I just talkded but I didn't thinkded."

"Stuff is not things! Stuff is just stuff!"


(The following conversation took place at 4:15 a.m.)
"Mom?"
(disoriented) "Huh?"
"MOM!?"
"YES?!"
(excited) "Thank you!"


(The following conversation took place at 2:00 a.m.)
Curly, age 3: "Mom, can you forgive me cuz of all the mean and bad fings I already done before?"
Me: "Yes. I forgive you."
Curly: "And do you love me so, so much?"
Me: "Yes, I really do."
Curly: "Then maybe can you scoot over and let me sleep in your bed wif you?"


"When I go to school, if I write that my name is Star Wars and tell my teacher that my name is Star Wars, will she call me that? Or should I just tell her to call me Secret Agent?"

"I don't want to be a fighterfighter when I grow up anymore. I want to be a secret agent because they have missiles on their helicopters. All fighterfighters have is big water guns."

"When you say I am in big trouble it just makes me so sad that you are listening to Satan again."

Friday, July 9, 2010

No Picnic For You

I have come to the decision that I will not be attending my 20 year class reunion this summer. There were many factors involved, including the distance and cost, but the deciding factor for me was in reading the Facebook page that was created for the planning of the reunion.

It was decided that a family picnic before the reunion would be a good way to socialize and meet each others' families. The location was debatable, but one great suggestion was to actually have it on the grounds of our high school. I loved this idea. I was excited to be able to walk my kids around campus and share some of my great - and even some not-so-great - high school memories with them. However, when it was asked if we could use the school's fields, the inquiry was met with this reply:

The above letter was posted on the Facebook page and everyone who read and commented on it found it to be funny. They were all quite proud of the reputation which the class of 1990 had apparently created for itself back in the day. They also mentioned that they were definitely planning on having alcohol at the picnic, so they were happy to find another location.

Seriously? With everyone's kids there and an open bar at the formal reunion later that night, is alcohol at a FAMILY picnic really necessary? Apparently I am in the minority with this opinion.

I was never really a big part of the whole high school hype, anyhow. Unless my classmates were in choir or drama or (ahem) lower level classes (I'm not proud of my lack of enthusiasm for learning at the time, but it was what it was) then I probably didn't even really know them, anyhow.

I think I'll be planning my own kind of reunion at some point because there are some people that I would really enjoy catching up with. I'll plan a day when my family is going to be in California anyway and call up a few friends that I'd enjoy seeing again. People who know how to have fun and be crazy without a drink in hand. Maybe we'll meet up for lunch or dinner and just catch up on old times.

Now, THAT will be a reunion I can look forward to.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Day With All-a-Boy


As he left in excitement for his scout activity on Tuesday afternoon, All-a-Boy had the good sense to pop his head back in the door and offer me a quick "Love you, Mom!" before venturing off for a tube ride down the river.

For some reason I was struck by the beautiful shade of brownish-green in his eyes just then.

Later, as he returned home, we sat together in the bathroom washing layers of dirt and grime from his feet so that I could assess a cut on the bottom of his foot, hiding in the fold of his third toe where it meets the pad of his foot. It looked pretty deep but not bad enough to warrant a visit to the emergency room. I tried calling my doctor's after-hours office as well as a few Instacare locations, to no avail. All were closed. I told All-a-Boy that we would have to clean it well and bandage it up until the next morning.

He was full of questions - will it hurt? How does water get the dirt out? Why does my toe hurt more than the actual cut? Why are there so many nerves in the foot? Why do you have to use peroxide? What causes the peroxide to get all fizzy? And on and on.

I love when my kids ask questions and All-a-Boy is never short on them.

The next morning I call the doctor's office and the receptionist informs me that stitches are not an option after 8 hours. "You mean the doctor won't even see him?" I ask. "We just leave this gaping wound bandaged and hope that it eventually heals itself?" She lets me talk to the nurse, who asks some more detailed questions about his injury then determines that he does need to be seen.

As we wait for the doctor All-a-Boy leafs through the magazine options available to help pass the time. Highlights, Ranger Rick, The Children's Friend... all of these were my favorites at his age yet All-a-Boy finds something much more interesting. He chooses to read National Geographic. He is initially fascinated by an article which talks about bone and pottery fragments which are discovered in an archeological site and pieced together with computer replicas. He then reads about the mating rituals of a funny species of Australian birds as well as power grids which control electricity in the U.S. He reads the most interesting parts aloud to me, asking for clarification on things such as 'stimulus money' and 'aesthetics'.

He is much too mature for his eleven years, I think to myself.

The doctor comes in and determines almost immediately that it is worth the attempt for stitches. He leaves All-a-Boy with a tub of water to soak his foot in before the procedure. As we sit there in the room, All-a-Boy comments to me on his observations of the room's decor - from the miniature outhouse just the right size for birds to the cleverness of the cow cut-out which reads, "Love one an udder." (har, har)

One thing I never have to worry about with All-a-Boy is silence. He always has those gears turning in his brain and he has no qualms about sharing his musings with anyone who will listen.

He flips through the magazines again and tries to decide between two issues of TIME. He's not sure which is more interesting - the story of the Times Square bomber or the clean-up efforts in the Gulf oil spill. It is not lost on me that I would easily have chosen the joke page in Highlights magazine over either of these two. He chooses to read about the Bomber and asks another round of questions: Why do people like this hate Americans so much? What would make anyone want to kill people that they don't even know? I do not always have all of the answers he seeks, and I am not afraid to tell him this.

Just before the doctor returns All-a-Boy is amused by a poster on the door which reads, "Should I ask my doctor about bed-wetting?" There's my 11-year-old. Potty humor gets them every time.

We move to another room for the actual stitching procedure and suddenly All-a-Boy can not ask enough questions of the doctor.

AAB: "What are those needles for?"
Doc: "I am going to use these to numb the area where I will be stitching."
AAB: "What's the big syringe for? Is that another shot?"
Doc: "No, this is just water that I'll be using to clean your cut out really well before we try to stitch it closed. I'll even give it to you afterward."
AAB: "Is any of this going to hurt?"
Doc: "Yes, at first. But the numbing medicine will make it so you can't feel anything."
AAB: "Doesn't it sort of freak you that you'll be pushing a needle through human flesh?"
Doc: "Nope. Not at all."

The questions continue with no end in sight. It becomes obvious that All-a-Boy is stalling. The doctor asks his assistant to hold the foot still while he injects the numbing solution into the sore. He continues talking to All-a-Boy, trying to ease his worry. "So, you were tubing with the Boy Scouts? Well, a scout is brave, right? Isn't that part of your scout law?" All-a-Boy is not amused, but I am.

I am amazed by the number of times that All-a-Boy yells out, "OW! Ouch. Okay, THAT HURT! Ow. Ow. OUCH!" Again, my 11-year-old is coming through. Once he is all stitched up and has inquired as to what sort of material the stitching thread is made from, the nurse comes in with 3 more needles.

"Um, WHAT are those for? My foot is already numb and sewed up!" She explains that he needs a tetanus booster shot since the last one he received was in kindergarten and that I have consented to his receiving his 12-year-old immunizations while we are there as well. "Well," he mutters, putting on a brave face and staring straight ahead, "I guess if I could take it as a kindergartner I can take it as a sixth grader. It can't be any worse than the shots I got in my foot today. Go ahead. Stick me."

So, 4 stitches and 3 tweety bird stickers (these were acknowledged with a hearty eye roll) later, we headed for home.

"That actually wasn't so bad," he mused as we drove along. "I mean, anything's worth it for this cool giant syringe."

I'll remember that, All-a-Boy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dream On

photo from christiekirschhomeinteriors.com

On a recent lovely afternoon, for a fleeting moment, I had a dream!

Within a few minutes, it was gone.

Don't worry... it all ended happily ever after.

I wrote about it at 4 Perspectives - click on over!

Building A Dream

computer genius at work, master craftsman at home

I used to dream of all sorts of fantastical things.

When I was young I dreamed of becoming a prima ballerina and then, when I discovered that I did not have the knack for dance, my dream changed to a future as a nurse.

That dream was shattered at the age of six when I hit my brother on the back of a head with a large rock at Waterfront Park (I thought it would make it into the Mississippi River with a brilliant SPLASH! but my strength deceived me) and the sight of his blood caused me to faint, leaving him to his own 5-year-old devices to seek medical attention. Nursing was definitely not in my future.

I wanted to become many things - an astronaut (afraid of heights), a Mouseketeer (too shy), an author (no patience), an illustrator (no talent), a rollerskater (it was my greatest disappointment to learn that this was not a true profession)... the list goes on forever.

I mention all of this because recently I had a blink of a dream that my home could appear in a magazine after reading these words on a blog that I follow:

Would you like your house featured in a magazine? I would. Lucky for both of us, I get to be in this magazine too. It should be fun.

My house is awesome! was my immediate thought. My husband is a master with woodwork and details! Plus, my eldest daughter ElemenoB is bordering on obsession with reading home decorating magazines, so the thought that our home could gain ultra cool status in her eyes was what made me even consider clicking on the link with instructions on how to get your house in the running. Then I started to read the description of the kind of house that they are looking for...

Clean (well, most of the time), fresh (sure, unless a diaper is in need of changing), light-filled (we have lights!) modern (built in 1996, does that work?) sensibility (?) with interesting collections (do Lego Star Wars figures count? Or children?) and a description of some of your HOLIDAY traditions.

I was still feeling semi-hopeful at this point. Until I saw that they also wanted 5 pictures of the inside of our home and their suggestions for areas and rooms to photograph do not exist here. (mantel, staircase, kitchen table with large window behind, etc.)

Isn't it funny how things can be awesome until you start to look at them from someone else's perspective? Well, I decided to quickly dismiss the thoughts that my home was inadequate or unamazing. Because you know what?

For us, our house is perfect. In fact, it is not merely a house, but a home. It is perfectly lived-in and comfortable. The woodwork in our front room and girls' bedroom is one-of-a-kind, lovingly created by my husband's talented hands. Much of the furniture throughout our home is also his workmanship. Every room is simply decorated and filled with evidence of what exists here - a family.

I have no doubt that ElemenoB's future home will be magazine worthy. She has the eye for decorating and color that I was not blessed with. As for our home? I'll be perfectly content with photographs in our memory books.

For now, I have other dreams to pursue. More realistic dreams, like getting my 3-year-old potty trained.

Now THAT would be a dream come true.